<< THE FLYING ROLL. >>
Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold, a flying roll. And he said unto me, What seest thou? And I answered, I see a flying roll; the length thereof twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof ten cubits. Then said he unto me, This is the curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth: for everyone that stealeth shall be cut off, on this side, according to it; and everyone that sweareth shall be cut off, on that side, according to it. I will bring it forth, saith Jehovah of hosts, and it shall enter into the house of the thief, and into the house of him that sweareth falsely by My name: and it shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it, with the timber thereof and the stones thereof. ZECHARIAH v. 1-4.
THE text is a representative prophecy of the impending destruction of the Jewish Church, which had become entirely perverted in doctrine and in life.
The roll seen by the prophet was a roll of manuscript, a book, or scroll, as books were then made, before the arts of printing and binding had been invented. Ezekiel, describing one of his visions, says, " And when I looked, behold, a hand was sent unto me ; and lo, a roll of a book therein." (Ezekiel ii. 9.)
A book takes its character from the things that are written in it, or from the character of its writer. If the contents of a book are true, the book represents the truth, in some phase and degree, according to the nature of its contents. But if its contents are false, the book represents falsity. The Word of the Lord is called "the Book," because it is filled with Divine truths. But this book mentioned in our text contained the things which were written in the minds of the men of the corrupted church, in Israel; false, perverted principles, springing from self-love. And so this roll, or book, represented the malignant falsities which were destroying all spiritual life in the Jewish Church. And the fact that it was a "flying roll," passing through the air, represented that it was passing through the corrupted Church, destroying all goodness and truth in the minds of men.
THE SIZE OF THE ROLL.
This roll was of immense size for a book; i.e., it was about thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide. This great size represented the immense power for destruction exercised by these false principles, pushing their way through everything in a man's mind. The common cubit was the standard of linear measure; and it was about eighteen inches of our modern measure.
The length of anything represents its measure, or quality, as to goodness; and its breadth represents its measure, or quality, as to truth. In this case, the length was twenty cubits. Twenty, as a number, represents the interior principles of goodness stored up in the mind of a man, by the Lord, especially in the man's childhood; and called "remains," principles remaining with him when he comes to the temptations of adult life. And the breadth of the roll was ten cubits. And ten, as a number, represents all, or a complete series, as the Ten Commandments, including laws for all human life. Here, as the width refers to the truth, the "ten" measures the whole character of the roll, as to the truth of its principles. And, as this roll represents the mental conditions of the corrupted and dying Jewish Church, its goodness was all perverted into evil, and its truth into falsity. And thus, those Divine principles which had been revealed to men as the means of spiritual life, had been corrupted by men, and turned into spiritual death. That which the Lord had given to men for a blessing, they had turned into a curse.
And so, when the angel explained to the prophet the meaning of the roll, he said, "This is the curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth." In this case, the curse is used in the sense of the condemnation, or penalty, which returns upon the man who swears falsely, calling God to witness the truth of that which the man knows to be false. Such a penalty is always attached to an oath, even by the civil law, as well as by the Divine law. For the value of an oath is in its absolute sincerity and truthfulness. And any other standard would imperil the lives and liberties of all persons in a community, And, as every responsible man understands the nature and importance of an oath, he brings upon himself the civil and spiritual penalties of perjury, when he swears falsely, intentionally and deliberately. "Evil shall slay the wicked." But, to the evil man, it seems that the Lord sends troubles which come upon evil men. In Jeremiah v. 25 it is said, " Your iniquities have turned away these [good things], and your sins have withholden good from you." And in Isaiah lix. 1, 2, it is written, "Jehovah's hand is not shortened, that He cannot save, neither is His ear heavy, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you."
THE FACE OF THE EARTH.
The curse named in our text is said to "go forth over the face of the whole earth." The whole earth represents the whole church of that dispensation; and also the whole natural mind of man, as distinguished from his spiritual mind, which is the heaven of his mind. "The face is the index of the mind;" and so the face represents the interiors of the mind, which express themselves in the face. In the evil man, the conscious interiors are the interiors of his natural mind, because his spiritual mind is closed.
And thus the curse is said to "cut off" those who do evil; i.e., inwardly, in their own minds, men's confirmed false principles cut them off from the supply of spiritual life, which is from the Lord, and which can enter into such minds, only, as are open to the Lord.
The two classes of evil-doers specifically mentioned in the text, are those who steal, and those who swear falsely. Literally, to steal is wrongfully to deprive another person of his property, either his worldly goods or his mental property. But, spiritually, to steal from another person is to take away his spiritual property, his good and true principles, or his rationality, or his spiritual freedom, If any of these is stealthily taken away from a man, he is robbed of his right sense of good and evil, of truth and falsity, and of righteousness and sin. And thus he is robbed of the means of spiritual life. And, in a more profound sense, the evil man steals from the Lord, when he refuses to love and obey the Lord, and to acknowledge his life to be the Lord's gift.
When the monstrous curse of falsity goes through the mind of a man, "everyone that stealeth shall be cut off;" i.e., such falsity cannot carry life to the mind, but it carries death, because it cuts off the mind from the source of spiritual life, in the Lord; because the evil man refuses to go to the Lord for life. He prefers the things which are spiritual death, although he hears the loving invitation of the Lord, saying "Ye would not come unto Me, that ye might have life." Spiritual stealing takes away all good from the heart, and destroys the "remains" of goodness stored, up there, by the Lord, in the man's early years.
The swearing here referred to is forswearing, swearing falsely, lying under oath, committing perjury, as we can see by the fact that, in the fourth verse of our text, it is mentioned as the act of "Trim that sweareth falsely by My name." The mere act of swearing, or taking an oath to tell the truth, was not objected to, among the Israelites, but on the contrary, oaths were ordained by the Lord, and regulated, and specified, under the charge of the priests. Swearing by the name the Lord is affirming by the highest authority, and in the most solemn manner. And when we call God to witness our sincerity and truthfulness, if we deliberately lie, we commit one of the gravest of crimes. And, spiritually, in perjury we confuse goodness and evil, and truth and falsity; and finally we destroy our own spiritual rationality, and our spiritual freedom. For "the sinner is a slave to his sin." False swearing destroys the interior remains" of truth, stored up in a man's mind, by the Lord. "Ye shall not swear by My name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God." (Leviticus xix. 12.)
It is said in our text, that the thief and the false swearer shall be cut off "according to" the curse, or flying roll; i.e., by the operation of that overwhelming falsity; working in the unregenerate mind, By the statement that these evil-doers shall be cut off " on this side and on that side," is meant on the right side and on the left; i.e., as to the good in the heart, and as to the truth in the understanding. For the right side represents the things of the will, or heart, the affectional nature; and the left side represents the things of the understanding, the intellectual nature.
THE HOUSE, ETC.
It is said of the curse, or flying roll, "it shall enter into the house" of the thief, and into the house of him that sweareth falsely; by My name : and it shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it, with the timlber thereof and the stones thereof." Spiritually, a man's house is his mind, especially his will, or heart, in which reside his ruling loves, the fundamental motives of his character. The great destructive false principles, represented by the flying roll, enter into the interiors of the man's will, and consume the spiritual vitality of all his affections. And, in the mental house of the perjurer, the great falsities falsify all forms of truth.
The text states that the curse shall consume the house, including the timbers and the stones. The timber, which is of wood, represents the natural goodness which should be built into every man's life. And the stones represent the natural truths which form the foundation, or wall, of the good man's mental house. And such natural goodness and truths are destroyed by the curse of fixed falsity.
In one phase of our text, the two sins enumerated, stealing and false swearing in the name of the Lord, stand as the general representatives of all prevailing sins; because they represent sins against the commandments on the two tables of the Decalogue, one for man’s relations with God alone, and one for his relations with men: taking the Lord's name in vain being a sin against the first table of the law; and stealing from men being a breach of the law on the second table.
Evils, falsities and sins never dwell singly and alone in the mind and life of any man. Evils are gregarious: and wherever you find anyone, evil in a definite and fixed form, holding possession of a man's mind, there you will find an unregenerate heart; and there you will find every other evil, at least in its potency, and In its beginnings, even although circumstances and policy may have suppressed the outward expression of such evils. Every man has a general level of character, either for good or for evil; and neither his virtues nor his vices extend above or below his general level. No man can be regenerated as to a part of his character, and unregenerate as to the rest. For regeneration does not progress by quantity, but by quality: and every man's general quality of character gives tone to each department of his mind and of his life.
The picture of the enormous flying roll, destroying everything in its path, is graphic and forcible. Men of the world, in any community, would look with abject terror upon the coming into their houses of such a literal instrument of Divine vengeance. But, although unrecognized there is such a terrible curse flying through the mind of every man who has fixed his mind in evil and falsity, and his life in sin. It is a deadly curse which he has formed in his own heart and intellect, and whose power he cannot escape, because he loves the corrupt things which form and constitute that deadly curse. The only escape from these conditions is in repentance and regeneration, before the evil has fixed itself in our completed character. It is for us ever to heed the Word of our loving Lord, seeking to save us from the self-made hell which confirmed evil sets up In every unrepentant heart. "Turn ye from all your evil ways, for why will ye die, O house of Israel." (Ezekiel. xxxiii. 11.) "Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live; and so Jehovah, the God of hosts, shall be with you. (Amos v. 14.)
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1903